It’s common knowledge that nations playing in front of their own fans typically brings the best out of the side and they often produce their best tournament performances. We have already taken an in depth look at some of the leading nations in this summers competition but in this blog we take a look at how some of the previous host nations have got on and what chances Russia have of a successful tournament.
The tradition of a successful tournament for the hosts started early, as in the very first tournament to be held, the hosts went all the way and won the trophy. Before the FIFA Congress could vote on the first-ever World Cup host, a series of withdrawals led to the election of Uruguay. The Netherlands and Hungary withdrew, followed by Sweden withdrawing in favour of Italy. Then both Italy and Spain withdrew, in favour of the only remaining candidate, Uruguay. The hosts did not disappoint, as they triumphed over Argentina in an eventful final.
The run in hosts becoming winners ran into a second successive tournament as Italy were crowned champions of the second ever World Cup. In the first ever World Cup to have a qualification stage, 32 nations entered the competition and 16 teams participated in the finals tournament. Reigning champions Uruguay refused to participate due to the fact just four European teams had accepted their invitation to the 1930 tournament. That did not bother the hosts, however, as they claimed a 2-1 victory over Czechoslovakia to claim the trophy for the first time.
Of course, if we are talking about home nations, then all England fans will point to that famous tournament back in 1966 where the Three Lions claimed their one and only World Cup win. Thirty-one African nations boycotted the tournament to protest a 1964 FIFA ruling that required the three second-round winners from the African zone to enter a play-off round against the winners of the Asian zone in order to qualify for the World Cup, as they felt winning their zone was enough in itself to merit qualification. They also protested against the readmission of South Africa to FIFA in 1963, despite its expulsion from CAF due to the apartheid regime in 1958. However, that was not why the tournament went down in history as a Sir Geoff Hurst hattrick helped the hosts to a 4-2 win over West Germany.
The Germans did not have to wait long before they would have their hands on the trophy, although as the Brazilians had won the Jules Rimet Trophy for the third time in the previous tournament, they were awarded it permanently. A new look trophy was awarded to the West Germans after a 2-1 victory over the Netherlands in the final. West Germany was led by Franz Beckenbauer, while the Dutch had their star Johan Cruyff, and their Total Football system which had dazzled the competition.
With just a minute gone on the clock, following a solo run, Cruyff was brought down by Uli Hoeneß close to the German penalty area, and the Dutch took the lead from the ensuing penalty. West Germany struggled to recover but were awarded a penlaty of their own after Bernd Hölzenbein fell within the Dutch area, causing English referee Jack Taylor to award another controversial penalty. Before the half was out, Gerd Müller scored what turned out to be the winning goal, and the last of his career as he retired from the national team. The second half saw chances for both sides, with Müller putting the ball in the net for a goal that was disallowed as offside. In the 85th, Hölzenbein was fouled again, but no penalty this time. Eventually, West Germany, European Champions of 1972, also won the 1974 World Cup.
The Dutch were once again denied World Cup success by the host nation in 1978 World Cup as they were defeated 3-1 in the final by Argentina. Playing at River Plate’s home stadium Estadio Monumental in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires, the match went to extra time after Mario Kempes opened the scoring for the hosts before Dick Nanninga equalized a few minutes from the end. The final was marred with controversy as the Dutch accused the hosts of using stalling tactics to delay the match. The host team came out late and questioned the legality of a plaster cast on René van de Kerkhof’s wrist, which the Dutch claimed allowed tension to build in front of a hostile Buenos Aires crowd. However, Daniel Bertoni and Kempes made sure of the win after extra time and Argentina claimed their first ever World Cup triumph. The Netherlands, because of the controversial game events, refused to attend the post-match ceremonies after the match ended.
If you’re an England fan then France 1998 will perhaps be remembered mainly for the Round of 16 loss to Argentina. Owen’s goal, Beckham’s red and, of course, England going out on penalties. However, for those of you in the rest of the world, France 1998 will be remembered for the final. Even before a ball was kicked there was drama in the air as stand out star Ronaldo was not included on the team sheet for Brazil.
However, the story did not end there as a second team sheet was circulated and the striker was back up front. It wouldn’t matter, however, as the star studded French defeated holders Brazil 3–0, with two goals from Zinedine Zidane and a stoppage time strike from Emmanuel Petit. Recent controversy has erupted after disgraced former Fifa and Uefa chief Michel Platini admitted organisers rigged the draw so France and Brazil would meet in the final. However, that should not take away from a tournament which will be remembered as one of the best World Cups in history.
It is not just previous winners which we need to take note of, it is also pretty common for the host nations to exceed expectations and go much further in the competition than most would expect. However, with odds as long as 50/1, they are certainly not expected to go all the way and claim the trophy. A Mo Salah led Egypt and a Luis Suarez led Uruguay stand in their way from even getting out of the group, and even though Saudi Arabia are not expected to cause much a concern for the other nations in the group, they are more than capable of upsetting the odds at least once.
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